Microneedles for transdermal drug delivery

Adv Drug Deliv Rev. 2004 Mar 27;56(5):581-7. doi: 10.1016/j.addr.2003.10.023.


The success of transdermal drug delivery has been severely limited by the inability of most drugs to enter the skin at therapeutically useful rates. Recently, the use of micron-scale needles in increasing skin permeability has been proposed and shown to dramatically increase transdermal delivery, especially for macromolecules. Using the tools of the microelectronics industry, microneedles have been fabricated with a range of sizes, shapes and materials. Most drug delivery studies have emphasized solid microneedles, which have been shown to increase skin permeability to a broad range of molecules and nanoparticles in vitro. In vivo studies have demonstrated delivery of oligonucleotides, reduction of blood glucose level by insulin, and induction of immune responses from protein and DNA vaccines. For these studies, needle arrays have been used to pierce holes into skin to increase transport by diffusion or iontophoresis or as drug carriers that release drug into the skin from a microneedle surface coating. Hollow microneedles have also been developed and shown to microinject insulin to diabetic rats. To address practical applications of microneedles, the ratio of microneedle fracture force to skin insertion force (i.e. margin of safety) was found to be optimal for needles with small tip radius and large wall thickness. Microneedles inserted into the skin of human subjects were reported as painless. Together, these results suggest that microneedles represent a promising technology to deliver therapeutic compounds into the skin for a range of possible applications.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Administration, Cutaneous
  • Animals
  • Drug Delivery Systems / instrumentation*
  • Microinjections
  • Needles*
  • Pharmaceutical Preparations / administration & dosage*
  • Pharmaceutical Preparations / metabolism
  • Skin Absorption
  • Technology, Pharmaceutical


  • Pharmaceutical Preparations